Posts Tagged Northern Iraq

Erdogan Vows to Extend Offensive to East Syria, North Iraq

March 19, 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, buoyed by his army’s capture of a Kurdish stronghold in northwest Syria, threatened to extend the offensive against separatist Kurdish militants to eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

Turkey’s military will shift their campaign to several towns under the control of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, including Manbij, Kobani, Tal Abyad, Rasulayn and Qamishli, “until this terror corridor is fully eliminated,” Erdogan said Monday. Turkey’s threat to attack Manbij, where U.S. troops are based, has put Ankara at loggerheads with Washington, and talks between the NATO allies have so far yielded no agreement. The U.S. also has a diplomatic presence in Kobani.

Erdogan on Sunday claimed victory in the cross-border operation he launched in January to expel the YPG from Afrin, a town along the Turkish border. While the loss of Afrin delivered a major blow to the YPG’s hopes to establish a contiguous autonomous region, Turkey has resolved to clear the separatist fighters from other areas near its frontier.

Turkish authorities see the YPG as an extension of PKK militants who have used bases in northern Iraq as a springboard for attacks on Turkish targets in a decades-long war for autonomy.

Erdogan Threat

Turkey has served notice to the Iraqi government in Baghdad that its forces would attack the major PKK camp on Mount Sinjar near the Syrian border unless Iraq takes action.

“If you are going to handle this, you do it,” Erdogan said in remarks directed at Iraq. “If you can’t handle it, then we may suddenly enter Sinjar one night and clear out the PKKs there.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that Turkish and Iraqi armies would carry out a joint offensive against the PKK bases in northern Iraq, probably after Iraqi elections set for May 12.

Turkey has had hundreds of troops deployed at the Bashiqa training based near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul since the end of 2014. It has also had a tank battalion stationed near the Iraqi frontier town of Bamerni for about two decades, and has frequently sent planes and troops across the border to target the PKK.

The U.S., meanwhile, expressed deep concern over reports that many residents had fled Kurdish-majority Afrin under threat of attack from the Turkish army and allied rebel forces.

“This adds to the already concerning humanitarian situation in the area, with United Nations agencies reporting a displaced population in or from Afrin district in the hundreds of thousands, who now require immediate shelter and other assistance to meet basic needs,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in an emailed statement on Monday.

“We have repeatedly expressed our serious concern to Turkish officials regarding the situation in Afrin.”

Source: Bloomberg.


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As Iraq grapples with bombings, Arbil booms

Arbil, Iraq (AFP)

June 21, 2013

As central Iraq grapples with a surge in violence and a longer-term struggle to wean its economy off a dependence on oil, Abdullah Abdulkarim stands at a car dealership in the northern Kurdish city of Arbil and smiles.

“Every day, things are getting better.”

Abdulkarim is not the only one who feels that way — the economy of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, with Arbil as its capital, is growing faster than the rest of the country and sees none of the violence that has raged across Arab areas.

In Arbil, crowded cafes overflow onto sidewalks, customers pack out restaurants with no fear of attack and, perhaps most importantly for the three-province region’s future prospects, foreign investors appear keen to plant their flag.

“It is really easy to set up shop here,” said Jorge Restrepo, an American of Colombian origin who runs a consultancy business in Kurdistan targeting Spanish and Canadian energy companies.

“The government of Kurdistan is very open to foreigners,” he said.

Over the course of 22 years since the establishment of a no-fly zone over the region to keep out Saddam Hussein’s forces, Kurdistan has increasingly distanced itself from the rest of Iraq.

The region, comprised of Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk provinces and their capitals of the same names, has its own president and prime minister, and the Kurdish flag flutters over government buildings.

Rather than the Iraqi army and police, the peshmerga and asayesh comprise the region’s security forces.

It is currently enjoying economic growth of 12 percent, according to its regional investment commission, while Iraq’s economy as a whole is projected to expand by nine percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

And almost 800 foreign firms — the majority of them from neighboring Turkey — have so far entered the Kurdish market, apparently encouraged in particular by a 2006 investment law that exempts them from taxes on imports and profits for their first 10 years in the region.

Firms are not obliged to hire local staff, have local investors or local partners, and can repatriate their profits at their discretion, according to Kamiran Mufti, head of the regional investment commission.

But the crucial difference between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq remains security.

“Security is really the key to success,” said Ghada Gebara, head of Korek, Iraq’s third-biggest mobile phone operator, which is headquartered in Arbil.

Nationwide violence in Iraq last month was its worst since 2008, according to both UN and official figures, but Mufti said the autonomous region, by contrast, did not record a single incident throughout May.

And there are more differences.

“The bureaucracy is enormous here as well, but in Baghdad, you also have religious divisions (between Sunni and Shiite Arabs), and of course the corruption,” Restrepo said.

Iraq is rated one of the world’s most corrupt countries, placing 169 out of 176 states listed in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, but Mufti insisted Kurdish regional leaders have “implemented a plan to combat it”.

— ‘But now, everything is good’ —

Regional officials also tout an economy that they say is more diversified than the rest of the country — cement, pharmaceuticals, steel and electricity.

The latter is produced in significant-enough quantities that the region exports surplus power to the neighboring provinces of Nineveh and Kirkuk which, like much of Iraq, suffer from shortfalls.

But the northern region shares one crucial characteristic with the rest of the Iraq — the heart of its economy is based on oil production.

The region has proven reserves of around 45 billion barrels of crude, or about a third of Iraq’s total reserves, according to regional officials, and its sale is the subject of tense debates.

The central government has angrily criticized Arbil for signing contracts with foreign energy firms without the expressed approval of the federal oil ministry, dismissing such deals as illegal, and slamming the transport of oil to Turkey as “smuggling”.

Gebara described the disputes — which also include a row over a swathe of territory stretching from the Iranian border to the Syrian frontier — as “healthy democratic debate”, but analysts and officials point to the disagreements as among the biggest threats to Iraq’s long-term stability.

For now, businesses in Arbil are not worried — at the dealership where Abdulkarim was eyeing a $24,500 pick-up truck, owner Hunar Majid was upbeat.

His glass-walled Toyota dealership lies at the center of the city and is packed. Majid hopes to increase sales threefold compared with last year.

At the entrance, Abdulkarim, a shepherd wearing the traditional baggy Kurdish garb, wasted little time debating whether to buy the truck of his dreams.

“Before, life was tough,” he said. “I could never pay for this truck.”

“But now, everything is good.”

Source: Space War.


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Iranian sniper fires across the border, killing Iraqi civilian

BAGHDAD (BNO NEWS) — An Iraqi civilian was killed on Saturday when an Iranian sniper opened fire from across the border, according to the Aswat al-Iraq news agency. Few details were immediately released.

The report, citing sources, said the shooting happened along the border line near the town of Haj Omran in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan, resulting in the death of an Iraqi civilian. It was not immediately clear why the sniper fired on the civilian, who was said to be a shepherd.

At least four civilians, including Saturday’s casualty, have been killed since mid-July as a result of Iranian attacks on northern Iraq, according to a Human Rights Watch report which was released on Friday. It added that an unknown number of people were injured while hundreds of families have been forced to flee the area as a result of the attacks, which target PJAK militants.

Farmers from the border regions told Human Rights Watch in early August that Iranian shelling had damaged their homes and that they saw Iranian soldiers cross the border into Iraq and kill farmers’ livestock. The attacks on civilians and their property that they described were similar to attacks documented by Human Rights Watch in June 2010.

“It has been more than six years that Iran has been shelling our area, but this year, it was unbelievable,” 70-year-old Fatima Mahmoud, who fled with her family, told Human Rights Watch. “I don’t know why Iran is shelling our village – we have never seen any PJAK members at all. I have never seen any [PJAK] members in our village.”

Iran regularly shells areas in Iraq to target the separatist Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), which is fighting to establish semiautonomous regional entities or Kurdish federal states in Iran, Turkey and Syria. The group has been accused of carrying out a number of attacks in those countries.

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.

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US forces to stop joint operations in Iraq’s north

Tikrit, Iraq (AFP)
July 23, 2011

In one week US troops will cease joint operations with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, begun in early 2010 to dampen tensions between Kurds and Sunni Arabs in disputed northern zones, a US military official said on Saturday.

Colonel Michael Bowers said that from August 1, American forces will no longer be part of the trilateral operation.

“By August 1, they (operations) will be bilateral” between Iraqi Kurd and Arab forces, Bowers told AFP at the US Contingency Operation Base Speicher outside the city of Tikrit north of Baghdad.

He indicated that US troops would no longer be on the streets in the northern zones.

“Once they’re all bilateral supervised, the only place we are is in the command and control centers,” said Bowers, the strategist for Major General David Perkins, the Commanding General for the army’s US Division North.

He said that out of 22 checkpoints across the disputed zones, 15 already had no US participation. He said seven checkpoints remained with an active US presence, which would stop at the end of this month.

“If something were to go wrong, obviously we could go help mediate,” he added.

US forces began the tripartite operations with Kurdish and Iraqi army forces, that are dominated by Sunni Arabs, in the northern areas early last year. That marked a new chapter in the US military’s role since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The US military, which currently has 47,000 troops in Iraq, began jointly manning checkpoints and carrying out security patrols in the provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh and Diyala.

Apart from the oil-rich province of Kirkuk that is claimed by both Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish government in the north, there are 11 other disputed territories in northern Iraq.

All US forces are scheduled to pull out of Iraq at the end of this year in accordance with a 2008 security pact.

American forces suffered their worst month in three years in June, when 14 soldiers were killed, mostly in rocket attacks that Washington says were launched by Iranian-backed Shiite insurgents.

Four US soldiers have been killed in attacks this month.

The spike in attacks against US troops comes as Iraqi leaders approach decision time on whether they want to maintain a contingent of soldiers after the end of 2011.

Source: Space War.

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Kirkuk buys electricity from Kurdish region


Oil-rich Iraqi city signs contract to solve its electricity problem during summer through buying 200 megawatts from Kurdistan.

KIRKUK – Iraq’s oil-rich Kirkuk province has started buying electricity from a private supplier in autonomous Kurdistan, its governor said Tuesday, after a spat with Baghdad over power shortages.

“We have a signed contract to solve the electricity problem in Kirkuk during the summer through buying 200 megawatts from a supplier in Kurdistan,” said Rakan Saeed al-Juburi, the governor of Kirkuk.

Jaburi said supplies had already started this month with 100 megawatts, which would double by the end of July, adding the contract was signed with Ahmed Ismaeel, one of the biggest private power suppliers in Kurdistan.

Kirkuk, which produces more electricity than it is allocated by Baghdad, in January briefly stopped supplying power to the national network.

It resumed only after officials agreed to immediately increase Kirkuk’s quota by nearly 50 percent, still leaving the province woefully short of 24-hour power.

Jaburi said the final price had still not been agreed, but authorities in Kirkuk were negotiating for $0.06 per kilowatt.

The governor said supplies would be paid for with revenues from the Petrodollar agreement, through which Kirkuk receives $1 from the central government for every barrel of oil it exports, amounting to about $1.7 million dollars a month.

Massud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, said Tuesday he hoped the deal would relieve some of his people’s suffering, and reiterated Kurdistan’s claim over the province.

“I understand your suffering very well, in the field of electricity and other services,” he said in a statement.

Supplies would continue until Baghdad honors agreements and “returns all these areas to the Kurdistan region.”

“We insist that Kurdistan takes care of the beloved Kirkuk province, and insists in helping it, especially during this hot season,” Barzani added.

Kirkuk’s three power stations produce about 500 megawatts of electricity, with the majority of that sent to Baghdad, Salaheddin and Dohuk provinces.

Residents in Kirkuk have been contending with only about 12 hours of state-supplied electricity a day.

With the exception of Kurdistan, Iraq’s power supply remains drastically short of demand, with homes and businesses nationwide suffering daily cuts and relying on generators to fill the gap, as the war-ravaged country struggles to boost capacity.

Overall national demand totals around 15,000 megawatts, compared with supply of 7,000 megawatts — 6,000 megawatts produced locally, and 1,000 megawatts imported.

For months, angry Iraqis have staged demonstrations demanding improved basic services, especially electricity.

Iraq’s infrastructure was devastated during the 2003 US-led invasion and more than a decade of sanctions that preceded it.

Source: Middle East Online.

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